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Back story: My 3 year old Wirehair Pointer, Daisy, was previously owned by a shut-in. She grew up with a litter mate and one of her parents (not sure if it was mom or dad). She was hardly ever was taken outside and lived most of her first 3 years in a basement. She was my foster, but now MY dog. (yay)

Overall, she has been doing GREAT acclimating to the world. She has learned about leashes and cars and pottying outside. She has learned words and tricks, and just is so happy to be in the world. I took things really slow with her, but she has been adjusting well. One exception, she is developing a fear of dogs.

The first few weeks I got her, she appropriately and happily approached dogs, sometimes sniffed and was on her way. The other day, I let her meet a neighbors dog. The were both on leashed; Daisy sniffed and then tried to nip and had a whiny growl. Now if she sees a dog, she gets anxious and starts to whine and start erratically walking and pulling. I would not call her behavior aggressive, more nervous. She seems excited to meet the dog and then freaks out. (both big and little dogs)

I live in an area with a lot of DA dogs and she has been barked and growled at many times (from a distance or behind a fence) Also, I am sure that the transition from her isolated home to a noisy shelter did not help things. I want to work on this before it become a real problem and I feel she is still so impressionable, that this is totally fixable.

My plan is to teach her to relax independently from dogs. Once she has that down, start working on relaxing her with dogs at a distance. Then try to decrease the distance until she can handle walking next to pups. That is what our trainer recommended I am feeling okay about the plan, but I was wondering if anyone else has dealt with an issue like this.

What should I do now? Avoid dogs? Would that compound the issue of fear of dogs if we constantly walk away?
 

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We have been dealing with Gally's noise phobia for about 6 months now and he has improved immensely. The plan your trainer gave you is a good one in my opinion and is the same basic approach we have used for Gally but with slowly introducing him to his sound triggers. For now you should try to keep her under threshold as much as possible. Every time she goes over threshold it is potentially making her more afraid of her trigger. So avoiding dogs may be necessary at this time while you desensitize her to dogs gradually.

Doing the relaxation protocol can be very helpful for phobic dogs, helps them relax and realize that they don't need to react (pulling/running away is how Gally responds to his triggers) but rather that staying calming and sitting gets them rewarded. http://dogscouts.org/Protocol_for_relaxation.html

Hopefully as you get further along in her desensitization she will be able to remain calm as you approach her trigger. Anytime she remains calm when she would have previously gone over threshold it's important to reward that behavior. This way you replace any negative connotations with the trigger with positive ones (food reward/praise etc.)

I found this site helpful: http://fearfuldogs.com/
 

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Avoid dogs as much as possible for now. I unknowingly adopted a severely DA dog (he was so shut down at the shelter, I don't blame them for thinking he was okay with other dogs) and while I was working on getting him to walk nicely on a leash, I stayed away from other dogs as much as possible. The more a dog gets to practice a certain reaction, the more ingrained it becomes, so while you're working on that reaction, avoid provoking it as much as you can.

The method you have been given is sound. It took a long time, but Muggsy was eventually able to walk past another dog without reaction using the method you described. It just requires patience and persistence.
 
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